A West Bay man has been trying for years to memorialize Dr. William Alfred Conrad Hortor, a medical doctor who served Cayman from the mid-1930s until his death in 1961.
Kenrick Welds hopes to erect a tombstone befitting Dr. Hortor, who is buried in West Bay Cemetery. The doctor’s grave, which is located on the southeast portion in the cemetery, is currently just a plain white cement slab with no markings.
Mr. Welds has been trying to raise funds to put the tombstone in place for several years. He says he has raised $2,000 so far, and the tombstone will cost $4,500.
Dr. Hortor, who hailed originally from England, was among the early pioneers of medicine who was honored in the 2015 Heroes Day. His name is also included in the Wall of Honour in Heroes Square in George Town, which was unveiled during the Cayman Islands Quincentennial celebrations in 2003.
“This has been a long haul and tender passion to my heart to raise the dollars to get a tombstone in place,” Mr. Welds said.
He recalls hearing his father and others talk about the late Dr. Hortor walking through cow pastures at 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning to reach the sick.
He says he remembers the doctor walking with a little umbrella to protect himself from the rain or sun.
“He walked from East End to George Town and from George Town to West Bay,” Mr. Welds said.
“It wasn’t for money – not like a lot of people who come to these islands today. It was the love for the people of this country.”
Most of the time, he said the doctor would not charge people.
Dr. Hortor was born in 1896 and died in 1961 at the age of 64, in George Town.
He arrived in Grand Cayman in 1936, on board the Cimboco from Jamaica, and remained in Cayman for the rest of his life. At the time, he was the only doctor in Cayman. Many lives were saved through his compassion and medical interventions, according to the National Archives.
With no paved roads, street lights or telephones on Grand Cayman, travel and communication were not easy, and the doctor, who was known for wearing high rubber boots to trudge through the mud and water along the narrow, winding dirt roads, visited his patients throughout the island.
According to archival records, he mixed all his own medicine and his special “peppermint oil medicine” was well known to be effective for a variety of ailments.
“He tasted each one first and would attend to every patient, no matter how late it got,” Mr. Welds said.
Dr. Hortor, who Mr. Welds said was hard of hearing, received little monetary compensation for his services, but was known to never turn away a patient who could not pay.
He practiced medicine until his death, first as a government doctor and later in private practice after his retirement.
He helped found Cayman’s first hospital and which had four beds and was on the site of the present Immigration Department.
He also helped to get the first set of nurses certified on the island. About 20 nurses were the product of his training.
“Many people in the community told me he saved their lives [or] the life of a family member,” Mr. Welds said.
He recalled Woody McLaughlin and Craddock Ebanks’s truck loaded with people from East End and North Side heading into George Town to see Dr. Hortor.
He said he was only 6 years old when he hurt his eye and the doctor stitched it up. Because he was a good boy, Dr. Hortor rewarded him with a bag of candies.
At that time, Dr. Hortor had set up a little clinic in the home of West Bay resident and nurse Leila Yates, where he also resided.
In later years, the doctor built a home next door to the West Bay Police station. The house is presently occupied by Nurse Yates’s adopted daughter Trilby.
Mr. Welds has also suggested a memorial plaque be placed on the old home in recognition of Dr. Hortor.